Archive for 21 February, 2014

#tgif Snow Monkeys

Looking for something to do this or another weekend? The very well known Japanese snow monkeys are actually Japanese macaques, Lt. Macaca fuscata, are the northern most living primates, other than humans. These macaques were photographed Jigokudani Monkey Park hot springs, near Yudanaka, in Nagano prefecture. To do the trip, you can take a special JR express train to Nagano city, or a bullet train, where you’ll see lots of reminders that the city once hosted the Winter Olympics, last century. You could stay in a hotel there, or take a 44min train ride to Yudanaka and stay in a holiday resort hotel. All the details of how to get there and other local info is available at this website, http://nozawa-onsen.com/. However, you should be warned that there is nothing to do at Yudanaka in the evening, and it seemed that the restaurants take turns on being open in the weekday evenings. Also, here’s a link to a monkey-cam with on the hour updates (local time), http://www.jigokudani-yaenkoen.co.jp/livecam/monkey/index.htm.

For this photo, and others like it, see my Nature gallery on PhotoShelter website, and my agent’s.

Since Yudanaka had a daytime high of -6°C (about 30°F), you’ll definitely need hiking thermals (shirt and long underwear type, or long johns), two layers of socks (regular & thick was fine for me), a regular undershirt, shirt, jumper (or sweater), and the thickest winter jacket for outdoor camping you’ve got. Thermals are good because they’re quick dry, and I wore regular hiking trousers, as they’re also quick dry. Regular hiking boots are fine, and may be spikes, but I didn’t use mine. Of course, you’ll need gloves, scarf, and hat. I wore a hat with a visor to keep my jacket hood out of my eyes. You will need to walk for about 30mins from a car park, and you’ll probably want to stay there for about an hour. They tell you not to bring food near the macaques, but there are lockers near the entrance gate that you can use, right next to where you’ll pay the ¥500 entrance fee.

Expect to take lots of photos.

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Valentine’s Day

May all the chocolates, flowers, kisses you want come your way. St Valentine’s Day is celebrated in different ways in different countries. For instance in Europe and North America, it’s a day when couples both treat each other, well, usually it’s the guy who organises a special dinner at a restaurant, flowers, and chocolates. However, in Korea and Japan, it’s the woman who makes the first move by giving a guy she likes a small box of chocolates. Then on March 14th the guy reciprocates. However, in Korea on 14th April, if a guy didn’t get anything from a girl on 14th February he then needs to eat black food (usually black soybean noodles) so his soul doesn’t wander forever lonely if he should die without finding love. For both Korea and Japan, the Valentine’s ritual is just for young couples, and not so much for married people. For this photo, and others like it, see my PhotoShelter portfolio and my agent’s website, or go here for the St Valentine’s Day gallery.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

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Foundation Day holiday

It’s the annual Foundation Day holiday today, 11th February. So, here are five facts about the public holiday. It used to be celebrated on the lunar calendar equivalent, but for convenience the Japanese have abandoned it for the Gregorian calendar.

1. What. This day marks the time when Emperor Jimmu created the throne to rule Japan in 660BC (Wikipedia/Public Holidays in Japan) and began the imperial order. The actual year is contested, and the emperor is said to have died at the age of 126 years (Wikipedia/Emperor Jimmu).

2. Why. At the time when Emperor Jimmu established the Japanese empire, much of the main island was inhabited by both Japanese and Ainu people, of which there were also Japanese tribal chiefs that Jimmu had to still militarily defeat. Jimmu was unsuccessful in defeating the cheif of Naniwa (now ‘Osaka’), but continued trying to expand ‘Japan’. Emperor Jimmu himself expanded the empire further east and north, to modern day Kii Peninsula (south of Nagoya, but east of Osaka; Wikipedia/Emperor Jimmu).

3. Legacy. Japanese expansionism in the pre-war era was attested to this emperor, and was used in Japanese propaganda, which was abandoned in 1945. The modern holiday was established in 1966, and first celebrated in 1967. In my whole time in Japan, I only came to realise the holiday existed after I took the photo below. Usually, to celebrate the holiday, young people go out on shopping dates. Not much else happens that I’m aware of, I guess because the neighbours would complain about any overt Japanese patriotism associated with the day (Wikipedia/National Foundation Day).

4. Religion. Though the emperor of Japan is also the head of Shinto, and is said to be a descendant of Jimmu, the name Jimmu is of Chinese origin and is related to Buddhism (Wikipedia/Emperor Jimmu). His mausoleum is in Kashihara, Nara.

5. Etymology. Final interesting fact, the word “Japan” does not even come from the Japanese language. This place is locally known as ‘Nippon’, ‘rising sun’. The word Japan was adopted into European languages from Malay, via Dutch explorer-traders. In fact, the word originates from Chinese, ‘Jih pun’, meaning ‘sunrise’ (Etymonline).

For this Foundation Day photo, and others like it, see my PhotoShelter portfolio, and my agent’s website.

Photo taken on film on 11th Feb, 2012. A young couple out in the trendy shopping district of Sakae, Nagoya. The Japanese national flags are seen on the side of a department store building (photo on my PhotoShelter portfolio).

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#POTW 10 Feb 2014 Naked Man Festival

This Photo of the Week is of the Naked Man Festival to be held this Wednesday. The festival began over a thousand years ago in Nara, and is held in Kounomiya, about a 20 minute train journey from the centre of Nagoya on the Meitetsu Line. It typically involves over 13,000 men (and boys), and unsurprisingly, over 180,000 spectators (more if it’s on on a weekend). The public spectacle begins at about 1pm (though you need to be there by about 11am for a good standing space), and it’s cold, and it has snowed in previous years. More information can be found in previous blog posts, and at Japan Visitor.

For this photo, and others like it, see my Naked Man Festival gallery on my PhotoShelter portfolio, and at my agent’s website. Also, here is a Naked Man Festival video for you to enjoy, entirely free.

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